Monday, February 26, 2007

Sowing Seeds

KU 89 ISU 52

KU continued it's sweep of Big 12 North this weekend, and looked damn fine doing it.

Collins, Arthur, and Chalmers were amazing. Wright and Jackson were also great.

Personally, I'm most pleased that Chalmers has come on strong. I felt that our wobbly play early in the conference season had a lot to do with his disapearring acts.

"One thing about Mario, he sort of lets the game come to him,” says Ronnie Chalmers, Mario’s father and the KU director of basketball operations. “Sometimes, that sort of disturbs me.”

But maybe the Jayhawks, loaded with potential scorers, are a better team with Chalmers playing the waiting game. Mario says he lets each game play out and then decides where he can be most useful. In doing so, Chalmers has become the glue that keeps KU together. He can play a different role for the Jayhawks every game. . .

Most of the time, KU hasn’t needed him to take the lead in scoring. But when Brandon Rush missed four open threes starting the game against K-State on Monday, Chalmers decided it was his time. Chalmers delivered with 12 points and kept KU close at halftime.

As this year has gone on, Chalmers has been more content to let everyone else play the role of “so-and-so.” In nonconference play, he scored in double digits in 10 of 15 games and averaged 18.8 points per game in the four games leading up to league play. His performance prompted KU coach Bill Self to say that, if he had to choose one player to shoot the big shot down the stretch, it would be Chalmers.

But in Big 12 play, Chalmers is averaging only 9.8 points per game.

As Self said, it’s not as if Chalmers is playing poorly. He’s shot 43 percent from the field in conference play and leads the league in steals. . .

“He’s beginning to realize how much Kansas basketball really means to the city of Lawrence,” Ronnie says. “If he could make the last steal in the game for Kansas to win the national championship, I think he would be satisfied.”"
-Brady McCollough, KC Star

"Instead of confidence issues, fatigue or complacency, Kansas leading scorer Brandon Rush could’ve blamed his six-point performance Saturday on something more simple.

A crick in his neck.

Surely Rush and a few of his teammates felt a little strain as they stared at the top 25 scores that flashed across KU’s video board during a timeout of the Jayhawks’ 89-52 victory over Iowa State. . . Kansas hasn’t earned a No. 1 seed since the 2001-02 season, but the Jayhawks certainly looked worthy of the honor Saturday.

“The guys are probably feeling a little freer now than they were earlier,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Maybe it’s because we’re playing better and they’ve got a little more confidence — and maybe it’s because I’m not in their ear quite as much.

“I trust our guys. Their confidence level is pretty high right now.”
-Jason King KC Star

And that piece ran before Wisconsin added a second loss in a week, and UNC went down to Maryland. Pretty good weekend for the Jayhawks.

Where does this leave us for rankings, and more importantly, seedings?

I think we now have an outside shot at a 1 seed. If we keep winning like this and others fall, we can play in.

I think we can all appreciate Greg Doyel's take on the Wisconsin - OSU game.

"The No. 1 team in the country was here Sunday. So was the No. 1 team in the country. Ohio State is ranked first by the coaches, second by the media. Wisconsin is ranked first by the media, second by the coaches.

You'd think that, one way or the other, the best team in college basketball was in the building Sunday.

Good heavens, I hope not.

If the best team this 2007 season has to offer was at the Schottenstein Center on Sunday, college basketball needs to die and come back as something else. Perhaps rugby. Or hockey. Lacrosse? Anything but that la-schlock I saw Sunday. . .

Look, Ohio State has a very good team. The Buckeyes have depth and talent and a great coach in Thad Matta. They have the next David Robinson in Oden, the next Chris Paul in Michael Conley, and lots of solid complementary pieces. One of those pieces is Daequan Cook, whose scoring average has been cut nearly in half, from 15 ppg to 8.3 ppg, since the Buckeyes entered conference play. Cook has all the tools in the world, and he thinks he's headed to the NBA perhaps as soon as this summer, but he sums up this OSU team:

Tons of potential. Ought to be great. But something's missing.

I can't tell you what that missing ingredient is, but I have good company. Matta also can't figure it out, because if he knew what it was, he'd fix it. As it is, he's got something pretty special -- the No. 1-ranked team in the country, 26-3 and barreling down on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament -- but he has a team that isn't good enough to win the national title unless something major changes.

Best team in the country? Not Ohio State. Oden is too passive, Cook too flighty and the Buckeyes far too reliant on Oden for rebounding and help defense. And any team that can lose by 26 at Florida, as the Buckeyes did on Dec. 23, is too soft to win a national title.

Not Wisconsin.

Not Florida, strange as that is. The Gators returned everyone who mattered from last season's national championship team, but they've lost to NCAA bubble team Vanderbilt and to NIT bubble team LSU in the past eight days. Joakim Noah isn't the starving-for-greatness player he was last season, but he's not alone. The only Florida starter who hasn't regressed is Al Horford.

UCLA? The Bruins have the country's best resume and the best three-guard set in Collison, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp. But the Bruins have a small forward playing power forward, and they have a cavity at center. Not good.

North Carolina? The Tar Heels have it all. They are Ohio State with more star power, Florida with more depth. But North Carolina has been swept by schizophrenic Virginia Tech and lost to mediocre North Carolina State.

So if you're asking me to name the best team in the country, I can only tell you this:

The best team in America wasn't in town on Sunday.

Unless Kansas happened to be stuck at the Columbus airport."


  1. I actually didn't think Wisconsin-OSU was that bad. Still, it does seem Kansas is playing better than them or anyone else right now.

    Thanks, Chris, for finding a few commentators who like the 'Hawks for a #1. But Lunardi now apparently has both OSU and Wisconsin as 1 seeds, with Florida dropping and KU not moving. Seth Davis also says KU has no chance.

    Our low RPI is one problem, but so is A&M. If we can't beat them out for the conference title, how can the committee give us a 1?

    As for Saturday, I like any game in which this is the most negative sentence of the AP article:

    "But then the Jayhawks got a bit careless and Iowa State found a brief shooting touch, going on an 8-0 run and slicing the lead to 72-35."

    Aaron, if you're reading this: I saw you on TV, in the distant background when ISU was shooting FTs in the second half. Smile for the camera next time.

    --Ignorant Keegan Quote of the Week:

    "On an unrelated note, it's nice to see that Hollywood is so in touch with what's going on in the rest of the country it awarded an Oscar to a documentary all about global warming. Didn't I read that one of Al Gore’s appearances was snowed out?"

    (That's two cheap shots at Al Gore since I began this feature... Does TK really think he's in the majority on this issue?)

  2. I agree that the biggest challenge to us getting a 1 seed is A&M/Big 12 status.

    OSU and Wisconsin will not both be 1 seeds. Right now, I'd say it's OSU, FLA, UNC, and UCLA with us and A&M breathing down the necks of FLA and UNC.

    So we have a very outside chance - but I don't see 2 Big 10 teams getting the 1.

    If UNC, or Fla drops another, and we win the Big 12 tournament by beating A&M, I think we could get it. - same scenario goes for A&M.

    A lot of ifs . . .

  3. Actually, if it comes down to us needing to beat A&M in the tourney, we've already lost, since the committee always ignores the Big 12 final. What we need is for them to lose to Texas this week or early in the tournament next week.

    I know it seems unjust for two teams from the Big 10 to get 1 seeds, but those teams are both in the top five of the RPIs, and the Big 10 still outranks the Big 12 as well.

    That and the their consistently high poll rankings, plus Florida's struggles and KU's inability (thus far) to separate itself in the Big 12, and you have a case for OSU and Wisconsin as 1's.

    KU looks better than both those teams, but the resume still may not be quite on par... On the other hand, I'll be interested to see where the AP and ESPN place us this afternoon. Top 4?

  4. Well, both OSU and Wisconsin have a better chance of being 1 seeds than KU or A&M, but I still think they won't both get 1's.

    Big 10 is only better than the Big 12 on paper. We are, I think, better than OSU, and A&M is better than Wisconsin.

    Rankings and RPI help OSU and Wisconsin, and will give them an edge in seeding.

    But I'd feel pretty damn good if KU were to play either team in the tourney, and A&M would match up pretty well with Wisconsin.